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5 ways to demonstrate positive leadership in a remote working situation

8 min read
Dan Hughes

We’re living in the remote working age. Gone are the days when working professionals were chained to one desk or bound by geographic restrictions — now, freedom and flexibility reign supreme, introducing the concept of leadership in remote working.

With the right structure and leadership, 62% of working professionals across sectors feel more productive when working from home or remotely. That’s the majority of working professionals.

As amazing as this new way of working is, managing a remote workforce does come with its fair share of challenges.

When everyone’s geographically spread, maintaining rapport, motivation, and productivity is a fine juggling act. But, with the right leadership, you can transform your remote team into a happy, engaged, and tight-knit machine. 

Ready? Let’s dive in.

The rise of remote working

Catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote or hybrid working has skyrocketed across sectors in recent years. In fact, it’s now become a part of the norm and an option that most digitally native candidates expect when looking for a potential job role.

These days, 28% of the world’s workforce work remotely or have some kind of remote job. 

No longer are we bound by the shackles of rigid nine-to-five work models and set geographical locations — now many people have the option to remain productive and earn a decent living from anywhere in the world.

Offering remote hybrid models empowers companies to attract the best possible candidates from a global talent pool — helping to spark cultural as well as commercial growth in the process.

But, while having a rising remote workforce comes with a treasure trove of benefits—without the right leadership for remote working—people can become disengaged and unmotivated pretty quickly. 

Related: 5 ways to focus under stress while working

How to demonstrate positive leadership when managing your remote team

At this point, you’ll know just how important being a solid leader is when managing a remote workforce. But, how do you do it, exactly?

These seven practical tips will help you lead your remote team in a positive way, boosting team engagement, rapport, and motivation in the process.

Let’s explore.

1. Create a wellbeing plan

First of all, to demonstrate positive leadership when managing your remote team, you should create a wellness plan. And doing so is easier than you might think.

When it comes to creating a wellness plan for your remote team, you should consider what “mini perks” you can offer to help your employees strike the work-life balance.

Here are some ideas for your inspiration:

  • Give everyone in the team a wellness hour (or two) every week to take a decent screen break and do something that helps them feel good
  • Set up a communication hub or channel where everyone can share personal as well as professional updates and good news
  • Put in weekly one-to-one check-ins with your team members and give them a chance to vent, express concerns or offer judgment-free feedback
  • Make sure you offer training and personal development plans for your team

By creating a central document that covers all of these key areas, you will empower your team to take charge of their personal wellness while feeling valued. In turn, everyone is likely to feel part of the team, becoming more engaged in the process.

2. Do daily huddles

Huddling up will bring your remote team closer together. By dedicating between 10 and 20 minutes a day to have a group virtual huddle, you will help to keep your team cohesive and, well, feeling like a team.

Scheduling a regular time in the daily calendar (the morning is usually best because everyone is usually mentally fresh at the start of the working day) will create a connection and give you a chance to discuss any pressing business in a friendly, informal environment.

Here everyone can take turns presenting the huddle before any good news and blockers or challenges are discussed between you. Throughout the huddle, you should see yourself as the compere, guiding the conversation forward where necessary and filling in any gaps.

3. Use the right communication tools

This may sound obvious, but when you’re leading a remote team, having the right virtual tools in your box is essential.

By using the right video conferencing software as well as project management tools for your team and organization, you can schedule meetings, share important information, and check in with your colleagues at the press of a button.

In the digital age, there are plenty of brilliant communication tools available at your disposal. From Microsoft 365 apps and tools to HiBob, Trello, Slack, and beyond—working with the right comms tools will keep your team collaborative while empowering you to lead using a multitude of channels.

Armed with the right virtual apps and platforms, you’ll be able to talk to your team and share vital information in a way that’s accessible, fun, and engaging.

Related: 11 highly effective collaboration tools to help your remote team succeed

4. Understand the need for flexibility

While remote working offers more freedom and autonomy in many ways, the lines between work and home life can become blurred. So, one of the best things you can do as a tip-top virtual leader is to show an active understanding of the importance of flexibility.

A whopping 97% of remote-working employees see flexibility as one of the top cultural benefits they look for when looking for a job. And, offering enough flexibility is likely to see your talent retention rates soar.

So, how do you demonstrate a genuine understanding of flexibility as a remote leader? Here are some practical tips for your consideration:

  • Make flexibility a part of your team’s culture by setting goals, milestones, and targets rather than focusing on working hours. Outline your goals at the start of the week and remind your team to take their well-being time and regular screen breaks during their working weeks.
  • Ask individual team members what flexible work arrangements would benefit them most and help them create individual performance plans around their personal commitments.
  • Hold your team to account by setting two to three core hours (plus important meetings) for each workday and empower them to tackle tasks or projects at times that suit them outside of your core working times.
  • Have trust in your team. Aim to support and advise rather than micromanage, as this can stunt progress and break down working relationships

Related: Best ways to delegate tasks and when to do it

5. Lead by example

You know that age-old phrase, “practice what you preach.” When you have a remote team especially, leading by example is vital.

This may sound like a grand statement, but the concept is simple: follow through with your professional promises and be a part of the team rather than a distant superior.

Enjoy your flexibility, take your vacation time, access the company benefits you’re entitled to, and lend an extra hand where it’s needed. 

And share what you’re doing (whether it’s project, personal or wellbeing-related) with your team during daily huddles, one-to-one meetings or via your team’s communication platform.

Adopting this approach will inspire your team to enjoy the perks of their remote role while creating a sense of rapport that will bring everyone closer together.

To create an extra sense of rapport, practice active listening during daily huddles or virtual one-to-ones. Here are a few top tips to try…

  1. Look directly at who you’re speaking to on-screen, but break virtual eye contact on occasion to ensure you’re not coming across as too intense.
  2. Nod and pause for a moment after the person you’re communicating with has finished a sentence, a statement to show that you’ve truly absorbed what’s being discussed.
  3. Ask a series of open-ended or rhetorical questions to keep the conversation flowing and gather all of the information you need before offering a response.
  4. Paraphrase back what the speaker has said on occasion to validate what they’re saying and prove that you’re actively listening
  5. Don’t forget to smile!

Related: How to use coaching as a leadership technique

Bonus tips

  • Arrange quizzes or fun quarterly virtual events for extra excitement and motivation. 
  • Book an annual or twice-annual in-person team event or get-together.
  • Offer a range of different meeting options for one-to-one communication, including different types of video conferencing software, telephone or even online chat to be as inclusive as possible.
  • Regularly reward and recognize your team and tell them why you’re happy with their work or performance.
  • Validate your team’s concerns about remote and help them find viable solutions.

Remote leadership: final thoughts

You don't manage people; you manage things. You lead people.
—Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

When you’re leading a team in a remote working situation, it can be easy to lose your grip. But, remember: whether in-person or virtual, your teammates are people.

Always approach your leadership duties in the most human and empathetic way possible. Don’t let your screen become a barrier—lead confidently, actively listen, keep connected, practice what you preach—and your remote team will thrive.